The Declaration of Independence | Study Guide

Thomas Jefferson

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The Declaration of Independence | Key Figures

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Key Figure Description
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. He represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. Years later he served as the third president of the United States. Read More
King George III The king to which the Declaration of Independence refers is King George III of Great Britain, who ruled from 1760 to 1820. Read More
John Adams John Adams was the second president of the United States. An early proponent of colonial independence from Great Britain, he represented Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. Read More
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. A well-known diplomat, he urged for independence after approaching French leadership about assistance during the war with Great Britain. Read More
John Hancock John Hancock represented Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. As the president of the Congress, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. Read More
Samuel Adams Samuel Adams represented Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. Known as a radical for his fervent opposition to repressive British laws, he later served as lieutenant governor and governor of Massachusetts.
Josiah Bartlett Josiah Bartlett represented New Hampshire in the Continental Congress. He was the second person to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Carter Braxton Carter Braxton represented Virginia in the Continental Congress from 1774–75. Born into a wealthy family, he lost nearly everything during the tumultuous years of the American Revolution.
Charles Carroll Charles Carroll represented Maryland in the Continental Congress. His signature on the Declaration of Independence also lists his hometown, which he included should British troops want to hunt him down for treason. He served as a state senator of Maryland and as a United States senator at the same time before Maryland passed a law forbidding dual service.
Samuel Chase Samuel Chase represented Maryland in the Continental Congress. He later became an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Abraham Clark Abraham Clark represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress. Although he had little formal education, Clark served in Congress's many forms until his death.
George Clymer George Clymer represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress, where he served from 1776–80. In his home city of Philadelphia, he was known for leading rebellions against the Tea Act and the Stamp Act.
William Ellery William Ellery represented Rhode Island in the Continental Congress. He was an active member of the Rhode Island Sons of Liberty, a patriot organization protesting the infringement of colonists' rights by the British government.
William Floyd William Floyd represented New York in the Continental Congress. He left the Continental Congress in late 1776, then returned to serve in Congress under the new government in 1789.
Elbridge Gerry Elbridge Gerry represented Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but he refused to sign the Constitution in 1787.
Button Gwinnett Button Gwinnett represented Georgia in the Continental Congress. Born and raised in England, he emigrated to the American colonies in the 1760s. Today he is best known for his extremely rare autographs, which have been known to sell for more than $100,000.
Lyman Hall Lyman Hall represented Georgia in the Continental Congress. When the Revolutionary War reached Savannah, Georgia, British troops set his house on fire. He was officially accused of treason (the crime of betraying one's country).
Benjamin Harrison Benjamin Harrison represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. He was elected the governor of Virginia in 1782 and served for five years.
John Hart John Hart represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress. A successful farmer prior to the Revolutionary War, he offered his fields as a campsite for George Washington's 12,000 troops during the growing season.
Joseph Hewes Joseph Hewes represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress. He made his fortune as a shipping magnate before the war. He served as an expert on maritime concerns during his service in Congress.
Thomas Heyward Jr. Thomas Heyward Jr. represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. He returned to South Carolina in 1778 to serve as a judge. He also served as commander of a militia during the siege of Charleston, where he was imprisoned.
William Hooper William Hooper represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress. He resigned from Congress in the latter half of 1776, then returned to government in 1789 with a position in the federal branch.
Stephen Hopkins Stephen Hopkins represented Rhode Island in the Continental Congress. A longtime opponent of British rule, he left the Continental Congress in 1778 to serve in Rhode Island's state legislature.
Francis Hopkinson Francis Hopkinson represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress. He was well–known for his witty and often–satirical stories and poems about the British government.
Samuel Huntington Samuel Huntington represented Connecticut in the Continental Congress. He served as president of the Congress from 1779–81.
Francis Lightfoot Lee Francis Lightfoot Lee represented Virginia in the Continental Congress alongside his brother, Richard Henry Lee. Known as a radical patriot, Francis strongly opposed British taxation in the colonies.
Richard Henry Lee Richard Henry Lee represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. Well–known within Congress for his oratory skills, he introduced the resolution for independence from Great Britain on June 7, 1776. His brother Francis Lightfoot Lee also served in the Continental Congress.
Francis Lewis Francis Lewis represented New York in the Continental Congress. Born in Wales and educated in Scotland, he arrived in the colonies in 1734. A mercantile agent by trade, he became active in politics in the late 1750s.
Philip Livingston Philip Livingston represented New York in the Continental Congress. A strong proponent of the Declaration of Independence, he finished out his political career as a New York state senator.
Thomas Lynch Jr. Thomas Lynch Jr. represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. He became ill not long after signing the Declaration and Independence, and he and his wife left the colonies for the West Indies. The ship on which they traveled disappeared, leaving many questions about his fate.
Thomas McKean Thomas McKean represented Delaware in the Continental Congress. His long and illustrious political career spanned three states and 56 years. Among other things, he served as the president of newly independent Delaware (1776) and the governor of Pennsylvania (1799–1812).
Arthur Middleton Arthur Middleton represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. In 1781 he was captured by the British and held for more than a year.
Lewis Morris Lewis Morris represented New York in the Continental Congress. Despite his considerable inheritance, Morris often sided against his wealthy loyalist neighbors when it came to the patriot cause. Nearly all his wealth and property were lost in the American Revolution.
Robert Morris Robert Morris represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. He was responsible for securing much of the financing for the Revolutionary War and helped establish the Bank of the United States after the war's conclusion.
John Morton John Morton represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. Prior to his term in Congress, he held several Pennsylvania political offices, including justice of the peace and high sheriff.
Thomas Nelson Jr. Thomas Nelson Jr. represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. He succeeded Thomas Jefferson as governor of Virginia in 1781. He also served as commander of the Virginia militia.
William Paca William Paca represented Maryland in the Continental Congress. He served there until 1779 when he became the chief justice of Maryland, followed by a governorship in 1782.
Robert Treat Paine Robert Treat Paine represented Massachusetts in the Continental Congress. He was known in Congress as the "Objection Maker" for frequently voicing his opposition to others' proposals, though he rarely made any proposals himself.
Parliament The British Parliament is made up of two houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. This legislative body makes laws, oversees taxes, and reviews government actions.
John Penn John Penn represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress. A lawyer by trade, he served in Congress twice.
George Read George Read represented Delaware in the Continental Congress. Though an active patriot, he initially balked at Richard Henry Lee's Resolution for Independence, saying it was too hasty of an action. He changed his mind after its adoption.
Caesar Rodney Caesar Rodney represented Delaware in the Continental Congress. He served in Congress from its inception until 1777. In 1778 he was elected as President of Delaware, a position he undertook while simultaneously serving as major–general of the Delaware militia.
George Ross George Ross represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. A longtime supporter of colonial assemblies, he served in the Continental Congress while doing duty as a local legislator. He was also a colonel in the Continental Army.
Benjamin Rush Benjamin Rush represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. A physician by trade, he taught university medical courses and served as a field surgeon for the Continental Army in addition to his political and professional duties.
Edward Rutledge Edward Rutledge represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. At 27 he was one of the youngest members of the Congress, which he left in late 1776 to help defend his home colony.
Roger Sherman Roger Sherman represented Connecticut in the Continental Congress. Though he was a conservative, he supported the patriot cause. He helped draft the Articles of Confederation, which provided for an interim government during the Revolutionary War.
James Smith James Smith represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. In 1774 he wrote a paper called "Essay on the Constitutional Power of Great Britain Over the Colonies of America." The document called for a boycott of all British goods as well as a "general Congress" of the colonies.
Richard Stockton Richard Stockton represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress. A conservative, he initially believed the colonies should be represented in British Parliament. He changed his mind after the Stamp Act of 1765. He was captured by the British just a few months after signing the Declaration of Independence. He was detained as a prisoner for several years.
Thomas Stone Thomas Stone represented Maryland in the Continental Congress. He served on the committee that created the Articles of Confederation, which provided for an interim government during the Revolutionary War.
George Taylor George Taylor represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress. He was named to Congress in July 1776 as a replacement of a delegate who refused to support independence. Though he arrived too late to vote on Richard Henry Lee's resolution, he did sign the declaration.
Matthew Thornton Matthew Thornton represented New Hampshire in the Continental Congress. A successful physician, he was also the architect of New Hampshire's government and the colony's president following the breakdown of the royal government in 1775.
George Walton George Walton represented Georgia in the Continental Congress. He and fellow Congressman Button Gwinnett had a years-long rivalry. Gwinnett's death occurred during a duel against Georgia politician Lachlan McIntosh, for which Walton was censured by the legislature for his involvement
William Whipple William Whipple represented New Hampshire in the Continental Congress. A merchant by trade, he served on New Hampshire's Executive Council following the dissolution of the colony's royal government. His service in Congress was often interrupted by his military duties for the New Hampshire militia.
William Williams William Williams represented Connecticut in the Continental Congress. He replaced Oliver Wolcott, who had become ill. Williams arrived just in time to sign the declaration. Then he was appointed to the committee to develop the Articles of Confederation, which provided for an interim American government during the war.
James Wilson James Wilson immigrated to the colonies from his native Scotland in 1765. A teacher and law student at the College of Philadelphia, he represented Pennsylvania during the Second Continental Congress.
John Witherspoon John Witherspoon was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. A native of Scotland, he moved to the colonies in 1768 to serve as president of the College of New Jersey, eventually representing the state in the Continental Congress.
Oliver Wolcott Oliver Wolcott represented Connecticut in the Continental Congress. Upon signing the Declaration of Independence he returned to Connecticut to raise a state militia, which he commanded.
George Wythe George Wythe represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. He is often hailed as the "first great American law teacher." He was an important jurist known for his belief that a court can invalidate, or nullify, a law that violates the principles of the Constitution.
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